Oxyl’s technology uses water movement to remove pollutants • TechCrunch
UNESCO considers water pollution to be one of the main challenges facing societies, with 2 million tonnes of sewage entering the world’s water every day. Oxyl wants to help solve the crisis with a new wastewater treatment that removes micropollutants. The Zurich-based startup today announced $3 million in pre-seed funding that it will use to commercialize its technology. The round was led by Wingman Ventures with participation from SOSV, Better Ventures and another.vc.
The new capital brings Oxyle’s total raised to date to $7.4 million since its inception in 2020. The startup’s clients include companies in the pesticides, chemicals, textile pigments, electronics industries. and pharmacy which are regulated by strict release limits.
Oxyl’s wastewater treatment was developed five years ago by co-founder and CEO Dr. Fajer Mushtaq during her doctoral research at ETH Zurich. While earning his master’s degree, Dr. Mushtaq worked with synthetic chemicals to develop new nanomaterials for biomedical applications. This resulted in wastewater containing toxic chemicals that required special treatment and disposal methods. Since there was no effective way to dispose of the chemicals, the wastewater had to be incinerated.
“For me, this way of managing water was not only expensive, dangerous and very unsustainable, but it also completely robbed us of one of our most precious resources,” Dr Mushtaq said. “The more I studied this subject, the more I learned about the immense scale at which incineration was practiced by small and large international companies.”
She decided to focus her doctoral research on the development of new catalysts to remove micropollutants. Dr. Mushtaq then worked with co-founder and CTO Dr. Silvan Staufert to integrate Oxyl’s water treatment solution into a scalable technology platform. Since then, Oxyl has carried out paid pilots with industrial and municipal clients and has grown its team to 17 people.
Oxyl’s wastewater treatment removes micropollutants including PFAS (chemicals found in products such as cleaning solutions, water-resistant fabrics and non-stick cookware), pharmaceuticals, hormones and pesticides. It is a nanoporous catalyst (a material with a large surface area that absorbs energy) developed by Dr. Mushtaq. When the nanoporous catalyst is activated by water movements like bubbles or vibrations, it creates a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction generates oxidative radicals which break down organic pollutants into carbon, fluorides and other harmless minerals.
Oxyl uses modular reactors to deploy its technology. For companies that must comply with discharge regulations, Oxyl also offers an analysis platform for real-time monitoring of micropollutants connected via its reactors.
The startup continues to carry out paid pilots on site with customers to get feedback on its technology. He has worked on projects with agrochemical companies whose production processes result in high levels of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. This wastewater is usually sent for incineration, but Dr Mushtaq said they were able to remove over 95% of the compounds using Oxyl’s technology. The startup has also completed environmental remediation projects with industrial clients to bring pollutants, including PFAS, into groundwater below the detection limit.
Other wastewater solutions include activated carbon technology (to absorb pollutants) and membrane filtration technology (to filter pollutants), which are widely used around the world to treat wastewater. But Dr Mushtaq said the pollutants still remain on the activated carbon used or in the concentrated water left over from the filtration process. These technologies also incur high operating costs, as activated carbon or membranes have to be replaced.
The advantage of Oxyl is to degrade micropollutants without generating secondary waste. Its nanoporous catalyst is long-lasting and fully recyclable, Dr. Mushtaq added. But Oxyl sees filtration technologies as partners rather than competitors, since the highly concentrated wastewater they leave behind can be treated using Oxyl’s methods.
The startup is expanding its technology platform to cover more use cases, including circulating systems (or artificial water channels), ultra-compact systems like those used in labs, use cases at large scale such as municipal wastewater and low cost solutions for developing economies. Oxyl is also working with companies and R&D institutes to improve the speed and cost-effectiveness of its pollutant analysis system.
In a statement, Alex Stöckl, founding partner of Wingman Ventures, said: “Our freshwater resources are being depleted at an alarming rate and toxic micropollutants in water are causing serious harm to our health and environment. New regulations will force companies to act. But in addition, we must use sustainable technology to protect our precious water resources for us and our future generations. We are proud to support Oxyl in its journey to solve our global water problem to give everyone access to safe drinking water.